Walking on lumps on the entire ball of your foot can be painful. The cramping rigidity and clutching can make your foot feel stiff and undeniably intolerable. This can sideline you as it puts extra stress on the front of the foot making it hard for you to walk. This is known as metatarsalgia and is caused by a strained or irked nerve in the ball of the foot or behind the ankle. Almost anyone can develop metatarsalgia, although it is common in athletes or walkers who sometimes get stress fractures of the metatarsal bones. Obese people are also at a greater risk.
Finding the correct diagnosis is important for correct treatment. Sometimes more than one diagnosis is present. The initial step in treating metatarsalgia is to define the cause of the pain. If unfitting footwear is the cause of the pain, the footwear must be changed. Consequently, if you injure or have pain on your foot, you should pursue medical help straightaway. Further, if the pain lasts for more than several days to a week, it is advisable to see a foot care specialist such as a podiatrist or orthopedic specialist.
If you engage in high-impact sports or exercise routines, taking a break will help you manage the pain and heal faster. Correspondingly, you can participate in low-impact activities like swimming until your pain dwindles. To help pin down the source of your pain, your physician will scrutinize your foot and ask you a few questions about your lifestyle and activity level. To rule out stress fractures of the metatarsal bones an X-ray might be required. Additionally, wearing footwear that puts less stress on your feet or adding padding and arch backing inside your shoes or slippers can help boot out the pain. Treatment varies depending on the category of metatarsalgia. The condition can be generally classified into two main categories:
It is considered structural in nature. An instinctive abnormality which triggers extreme pressure under the metatarsal heads. Case in point is long or short metatarsal bones. Treatment should be focus on the disproportion in weight distribution at the metatarsal heads and should reflexively direct force away from the point of pressure.
Secondary Metatarsalgia and Iatrogenic Metatarsalgia
Often caused by systemic conditions or occur after a reconstructive surgery or a failed surgery. Sometimes, symptoms continue to some degree despite having been addressed surgically. This is most likely when the condition is enduring, there is quite a bit of tissue damage. Also, localized pain at the ball of the foot can be caused by conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and sesamoiditis.
Home Diagnosis and Treatment
A home diagnosis is also possible as all you must determine is whether there is pain in the ball of your foot, at the base of your second and third toes. If the answer to this diagnosis is yes, then you have advanced metatarsalgia and you need to start treatment immediately. To manage the pain, you will need to ice your foot regularly and apply a less pressure bandage. Treatment predominantly centers on easing discomfort and pain. To reduce inflammation and relieve the pain use anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen. The pain can spread to other parts of the foot or elsewhere in the body, as you become accustomed to their gait to pain management. So, not treating metatarsalgia can lead to complications.
Treatment of metatarsalgia often consists of anti-inflammatory medications, footwear modifications, and inserts for your shoes. You might require a surgical procedure in some rare situations if you don’t find relief in these forms of treatment. An osteotomy is the common surgical procedure to carefully fracture a bone to change the length and/or positioning of the bone. This can modify the forces of weight bearing in the forefoot to relieve the symptoms of foot pain.
During the recovery phase, physical therapy is important. This is because getting oxygen to the tissues is vital during treatment. However, stretching and strengthening exercises should be done warily as it is important not upset the healing process. The key focus of treatment is relief of pressure in the foot area. Inflammation must be allowed to subside by relieving the recurring excessive pressure. The inflammation will disappear as passive range of motion exercises gradually advances.
Common Causes of Metatarsalgia
- Any individual that takes part in a high impact sport is at risk of impairment to the metatarsals and resulting pain.
- Wearing shoes that do not fit as they should can heighten the risk of damage and pain. Generally, poorly fitting shoes are known to alter the natural distribution of weight on your foot. This can cause metatarsalgia.
- Foot deformities can also cause metatarsalgia. For instance, a higher foot arch than normal or a second toe longer than the big toe changes the distribution of weight.
- Obesity can also be a contributing factor for metatarsalgia because excess weight places extreme pressure on the forefoot and metatarsals with each step and movement.
Metatarsalgia pain can be agonizing and avoid it is a plus to any person. So how can one prevent metatarsalgia? It’s simple. You can start by maintaining a healthy weight to prevent undue stress on the feet. Shoe inserts can also come in handy as they reduce the impact to the forefoot and stress on the feet.
In the case of primary metatarsalgia inserts can help correct the biomechanical abnormalities that can worsen the situation. shoes and boots should be properly designed to have toe boxes that are suitably wide and high to let the toes spread. For that reason, they help prevent pressure in the forefoot and reduce the risk of metatarsalgia. Shunning shoes with very high heels and pointed toes is advisable as they tend to increase pressure and stress on the forefoot.
To conclude, metatarsalgia can affect any person who spends most time on their feet. Even though it is not considered as a serious condition, the pain can be awful. Besides pain, other symptoms include tingle toes and numbness. Different categories may require different treatments.